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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Abortion rates have inched lower in most groups of U.S. women, but not among poor women, where they are still on the rise, according to a study.
The report, in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, comes as the U.S. federal and state governments begin to make funding cuts that could limit access to family planning services for the lowest income women.
Among U.S. women aged 15 to 44, the national abortion rate declined from 21 abortions for every 1,000 women to 20 per 1,000 between the years 2000 and 2008.
But the abortion rate among women with the lowest income -- below the U.S. poverty line -- climbed from 44 to 53 abortions per 1,000 in the same time period.
Those women accounted for 16 of every 100 U.S. women aged 15 to 44 by 2008, but for 42 of every 100 abortions.
"We weren't necessarily surprised by the findings, because they're a continuation of what we'd seen in the 1990s," said Rachel Jones at the Guttmacher Institute, New York-based non-profit organization that studies reproductive health issues, who led the research.
She said reasons for the rise were unclear, but one could be the economic recession, which likely hit the poorest women the hardest, making them less likely to be able to afford contraception or to support a child.
Whatever the reasons, she said, the findings underscore a need to prevent more unplanned pregnancies among poor women.
"We have not been improving poor women's ability to access family planning services. In fact, we've been making it harder," she said.
The recent federal budget deal included a 5.5 percent cut in funding for Title X, a 40-year-old federal program that helps low-income women get birth control and other services, though not abortions, at family planning clinics.
A number of states have either passed or are considering measures to cut state funding for family planning services, on the basis that some clinics also perform abortions.
Public funding for family planning comes from several different sources, with the biggest chunk - 71 percent -- from Medicaid, the federal health insurance program for the poor, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The Title X program accounts for about 12 percent, while state appropriations contribute 13 percent.
Reproductive health advocates have argued that Title X is a vital source of revenue for many family planning clinics, giving them the resources for things like outreach to low-income women, which Medicaid cannot do.
"We need to be increasing funding for family planning services, not decreasing it," Jones said. SOURCE: bit.ly/kbnKlF
Reporting by Amy Norton at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies